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Essential Chord Progressions Every Pianist Should Know



As a piano player having a grasp over different rhythms and chord progressions are an essential skill to have, especially if you like being on the spotlight. There are going to be many situations where you’ll have to improvise a cool rhythm and progression off the bat, sometimes even getting asked to play popular songs (which mostly have simple progressions by the way!).


Regardless of what you need it for, it’s always good to have some ready to go chord progressions in your back pocket. Today we’re going to be teaching you the essential chord progressions which every pianist should know!


Before we begin, we want to offer you the chance to try our Adelaide piano lessons for free with an introductory lesson and enhance your piano playing, for a limited time. Book your lesson here now!


Essential piano chord progressions to know


Before we get into the details of chord progressions, here is a basic chart to make the processes a little easier for you.


i Major
ii Minor
iii Minor
iv Major
v Major
vi Minor
vii Diminished

Classic pop song progression


The classic pop song chord progression is one you’ve most likely heard many times, even in some of your favourite pop songs like Despacito by Louis Fonte or Perfect by Ed Sheeran…and many more globally loved songs.


The sequence of the classic pop chord progression is shown below:




If you’re not familiar with roman numerals, the direct translation of the above progression is 1-5-6-4. You can also refer back to the table at the beginning of this article. Getting confident with roman numerals is crucial for any pianist, as most piano music and progressions, as well as other music theory uses roman numerals. You can have a lot of fun with this progression, especially as it is quiet easy to get a grasp of – making it a great choice for beginners.


12 bar blues progression


Before looking at the 12 bar blues, let’s first clarify what a bar is. Bars are basically used to split up or “chunk” your music, making it both easier to read and count. Each bar lasts for a certain time, determined by the time signature – a more complicated topic which you can learn at our piano classes in Adelaide.


In the case of the 12 bar blues, as you see in the name there are 12 bars, each of which have a count of beats. Each chord lasts for 4 beats (one bar), making 12 chords in total, hence why the name of the progression is the 12 bar blues.


You may be terrified hearing that you have to learn 12 different chords for this progression…but luckily that’s not the case. The actual progression consists of three chords, which are I-IV-V, or 1-4-5. To do the maths, a 12 bar blues is just this progression played over four times. 12 bar blues is very popular, especially when it comes to jazz and blues improvisations which this progression is the perfect company for.


Major progression


Next up is the major chord progression, which is perfect for creating a happy, wholesome, and vibrant mood. There are two variations of the major chord progression:


  • VI–IV-I-V (6-4-1-5)
  • I-IV-V (1-4-5)


You can easily apply this progression to a lot of happy pop and classical songs, making it perfect to have ready on the go for any celebrative occasion.


Major progression


It would be rude to mention the major chord progression and leave out it’s another half, which is the popular minor chord progression. This progression is extremely common in pop songs, classical music, and a range of other styles too.


  • I-VI-III-VII (1-6-3-7)
  • I-V-VI-IV (1-5-6-4)


These chord progressions are great for establishing that moody, rich, meaningful, and deep atmosphere, making your audience hold their breath as they travel through an emotional roller coaster.


The classic jazz progression


Finally, jazz is a genre which cannot be ignored, which is why it also has a very unique and catchy chord progression, which we promise you’ll get addicted to in very little time. Here are two variations of the jazz chord progression to prepare you:


  • II7-V7-I (27-57-1)
  • IV7-IVo-III7-VI7 (47-4o-37-67)


Just in case the extra notations and numbers are confusing you, here is a bit of a legend to help you out too:


  • 7/7= Seventh chord
  • o= diminished chord

Discover further than the tip of the iceberg


Congratulations on learning your first few popular and certainly very useful piano chord progressions. However, we must disclaim you that what you’ve learnt today is just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds if not thousands of different progressions which you can create and explore, all of which give unique results with their own special feeling and atmosphere.


If you want to learn more about musical theory, piano theory, and how to play the piano, then consider Kia Music Academy as the perfect piano teacher for you. We believe that building a strong theoretical foundation is key to musical success.


Kia Music Academy offers a range of piano lessons including:


  • Adelaide piano lessons – in studio
  • In home piano classes in Adelaide
  • Piano lessons online in Australia and around the world


If you want to enhance your musical journey and explore new depths of the black and white keys, then wait no longer and book your free introductory lesson now!

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